Frequently Asked Questions
What are your training methods?
Our primary training methods focus on canine cognition (teaching the dog’s mind) with some classical conditioning, and some operant training. We teach through motivation and positive reinforcement.
We use verbal markers, luring, targeting and some problem solving and insight learning methods. No leash corrections are used, in fact, dogs are almost always in a harness. No e-collars, no pinch collars, and no choke chains are used.
We start training pups at 3½ weeks of age so that responses are positively reinforced and embedded.
What is the student-to-instructor ratio for classes?
Generally the ratio is one instructor for every fifteen to twenty students with dog training class ratios about half that number.
Do I need lower-division college credits to attend a degree program at Bergin College of Canine Studies?
Yes, students must have the required lower-division units needed to transfer into their desired degree program. These courses/units are listed in “Academics” under “Course Requirements.”
Is tuition the same for in state and out of state students?
Yes. Tuition is the same for all students; even students from other countries.
Is housing available on campus?
No. Currently, we do not have housing on our campus. However, we do have a Housing Facebook Group to help incoming and current students find roommates and a list of apartments in the area that will accept dogs. There are eight dorm-style rooms available north of the campus for Bergin students and Bergin dogs only managed by a private entity. We also have a few volunteers who rent a room in their home for Bergin students and dogs only.
According to what I've read, if I'm interested in learning how to train service dogs, the program I should be looking at is the Associate Degree in Assistance Dog Education. Is that correct?
Yes. The Associate of Science Degree is focused on vocational combined with academic knowledge that will help a graduate start a program or be hired by an assistance dog program.
I already have a Bachelor’s degree, would I be able to transfer these credits to the Associate of Science degree in Assistance Dog Education?
Most likely your credits would transfer if the degree is from an accredited college. You might be interested to know that several of our Master’s students have taken the summer Service Dog Training Seminar, followed by enrolling in the Master’s in the Fall. This choice of study depends on whether you plan to do a basic service dog program (if so, the Associate degree program is best suited to that goal) or if you intend to create a new and different, “original” type of service dog program (then the Master’s would be best suited to that goal).
What is the difference between the Associate of Science degrees and the Bachelor of Science degree?
Both AS and BS students are assigned dogs. However, the AS students are given dogs that are in the pipeline for graduating as service dogs while the BS students are not. All students work with dogs that are at different levels of training and various ages so all students receive experience working with dogs that may not also graduate. Bachelor students do four different semesters; each with a focus on a different type of training.
The Associate students in Assistance Dog Education are taught only service dog training skills, however, they are exposed minimally to other types of training. The Assistance Dog Education students run a mock client service dog client training in the first semester. Assistance Dog Education students run the client training in the second semester with actual clients and graduating dogs. Bachelor students do not participate in client training at all except in the mock client training during their first semester where they gain dog-handling skills.
Associate of Science students will receive more hands-on work during their year on campus. The Bachelor’s program is a comprehensive look at the dog using a multi-disciplinary approach. Dogs used in art, literature, research, and history courses are taught. Coursework is more in-depth with communication skills, critical thinking skills, and ethical thought part of the curriculum.
The requirement to enter the Master of Science program is a Bachelor’s degree. Does it matter what type of Bachelor’s degree I have?
Both a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Arts are acceptable to transfer into the Master of Science degree program.
Is service dog training something I could learn by attending the Master's program or a certificate course? I read about the certificate for the Service Dog Training Seminar that is seven weeks long, are other training courses covered more in the Master's program?
The Master’s degree program has the top canine scientists from all over the U.S. as instructors and the subjects vary from canine cognition to canine emotions to actual training. The Master’s program requires that you to do an “original” project or thesis, not replicate what has already been done. Most Master’s students who are interested in this direction take the Service Dog Seminar prior to taking the Master’s to combine that knowledge in order to create an original project. The Masters is about developing or creating something with dogs that has never been done.
Can you give me any insight into how much time and energy I would need to devote to attending the Master’s program and how much time I would have to focus on my business/work?
That is a very good question because our Master’s sessions are a bit different than many schools in that our on-campus sessions are offered three times a year for two weeks at a time. The on-site sessions are usually offered in October, February and June the first year. The second year focuses on a thesis or culminating project (you are not required to be on campus during your second year). The program is expected to be completed within two years.
We estimate that you may devote about twenty hours in the month after each session to read and do assignments. Some instructors will give you a reading assignment before their class starts and you need to allow for the time needed to complete that assignment.
When I was reading the requirements for the Master's program it mentioned that I needed a dog. I currently have two dogs; would I be able to use one of them as a dog to train? Or I would have to get a puppy?
In the Master of Science degree program you provide your own dog when you train at home. As part of your Master’s project, you must train a dog to do a task. You do not need to acquire a puppy. When you are on campus for the Master’s session we will provide one of our dogs for you to train.
I'd like to get more details on the curriculum for the Service Dog Training Seminar. Who takes the summer seminar?
Often people who take the summer seminar are already working at or poised to be hired at a canine service dog program. The seminar is a short course so not nearly as comprehensive or in-depth as the College programs. The first two weeks consist of "mock client training" where students take on the role of a client. This is intended to help students understand what a client goes through physically and emotionally. It gives you hands-on experience running a client training, and an overview of the service dog commands. This is not a training period - it consists of lecture classes, hands-on dog-training classes, and field trips. The next three weeks consist of learning the skills to train a service dog and start an organization in both lecture and hands-on dog training classes. You will be assigned dogs to work with and will most likely have a dog with you 24/7. The last two weeks of the seminar are the real client training weeks. Students become teachers and run the client training so as to really understand and learn how to work with clients and manage a service dog training class.
If I take the Service Dog Seminar, will I be ready to be a service dog trainer?
The seminar is only seven weeks, so does not fully prepare someone to start a program. The AS degree in Assistance Dog Education provides much more thorough preparation.
Most students who participate in the summer seminar already are working in the dog field and want to improve their training skills. We suggest to seminar students that when they complete the seminar, that they get some neighbor dogs or personal dogs, and experiment on the techniques taught in the seminar before training actual service dogs. Many of our seminar graduates have started their own programs based on what they learned at the seminar, however, care must be taken not to overload oneself, to take it one dog/client placement at a time rather than several clients and dogs at a time.